Holiday weekend update

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone. I remember most my cousin Army Capt. Eric T. Paliwoda, 4th Infantry Division, West Point Class of 1997, who was killed in combat in Iraq on January 2, 2004.

Blogger Keith Hennessey lead me to this May 26, 2010, PowerPoint presentation by Congressional Budget Officer Director Douglas Elmendorf which begins with the following “Challenge”:

Rising health costs will put tremendous pressure on the federal budget during the next few decades and beyond. In CBO’s judgment, the health legislation enacted earlier this year does not substantially diminish that pressure.

While, according to Reuters, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius continues her close watch on health insurers who are trying to bend the cost curve down, Congress and the American Medical Association continue their effort to bend that curve up.

Modern Healthcare reports that on Friday, May 28, the House of Representatives passed this a bill replacing the 21.2% cut in Medicare Part B payments with a 2.2% increase for the remainder of this year and a further 1.0% increase next year. That bill now goes to the Senate, which has adjourned for the Memorial Day recess but returns June 7.  Because the current moratorium ends today, CMS has directed its contractors to hold Medicare Part B claims incurred in June for ten business days. It remains to be seen whether this gives Congress sufficient time to act.

Business Insurance reports that the House also approved on Friday a bill which extends the COBRA/TCC subsidy program from May 31, 2010, through November 30, 2010. That bill also awaits Senate action which is likely to be retroactive.

The FTC further delayed the Red Flags rule compliance date from June 1 to December 31, 2010, in order to allow Congress to consider legislation that would exempt physician, attorney and accounting offices with fewer than 20 employees from having to comply.  “The [Red Flags] Rule was developed under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, in which Congress directed the FTC and other agencies to develop regulations requiring “creditors” and “financial institutions” to address the risk of identity theft. The resulting Red Flags Rule requires all such entities that have “covered accounts” to develop and implement written identity theft prevention programs to help identify, detect, and respond to patterns, practices, or specific activities – known as “red flags” – that could indicate identity theft.” The FTC has been trying to implement this rule since November 1, 2008.

Finally, the Federal Times reported last week on an Obama administration initiative to “post online the full texts of federal contracts, task orders and delivery orders as a way to advance government transparency.” FEHB plans are created by government contracts between OPM and the plan’s carrier. At this time, the Obalma administration is seeking public input on this initiative according to a May 13, 2010, Federal Register notice.